Katorga: An Ozet Performance
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Katorga: An Ozet Performance. Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark's Church (see Off-Off Broadway). Created by Aaron Meicht, Scott Blumenthal and Daniel Baker. With Baker and Becky Baumwoll. Running time: 1hr 10mins. No intermission.
Katorga: In brief
The Incubator Arts Project closes up shop for good with a final production: composer Aaron Meicht, writer Scott Blumenthal and sound designer Daniel Baker's immersive sci-fi tale of a woman in a prison colony, inspired by the work of J.D. Bernal and Karl Kraus.
Katorga: Theater review by Helen Shaw
Comrades, art enthusiasts, theater nuts: Attend. It's time to bid do svidaniya to one of our most beloved spaces. It saddens me to say it, but Katorga: An Ozet Performance—Aaron Meicht, Scott Blumenthal and Daniel Baker's densely imagined, utterly baffling music performance—will set the capstone on the Incubator Arts Project's tenure at St. Mark's Church. It's a bizarre note to end on—or perhaps a perfect one, somehow in tune with all that went before. Lord knows, the Incubator always cooked ’em weird, and from its inception under Richard Foreman, the room leaned toward the interdisciplinary, image-thick and strange.
Katorga is an insular, inward-looking event, a reflection of some massive private undertaking. We don't see quite why all the creators' thinking and planning has been extruded into this noisy jam-rock installation, but there's sweetness to the complexity: Everything down to the fabric of the band's shirts has been executed with an overriding concept. The show is basically a staged concept album with rich environmental design—and it may be best, in the sweltering heat of the A/C-free room, to let its madness wash over you.
If you want to eke meaning from the atmospherics, read your program. There you will learn (1) the titular Ozet is a giant space colony, big enough to contain a biosphere and governed as if it were one of Russia's autonomous oblasts, (2) Katorga is Ozet's prison colony, home to the Woman (Becky Baumwoll), and (3) Ozet launched in 1929, hence the aesthetic of 1950s space-race imagery married to Soviet poster typography.
Zero of these facts is explained by the show itself. Instead, three small monitors show Dan Scully's gorgeous video art, while Daniel Baker, sometimes in a fuzzy hat, yell-sings about pioneers and mushrooms. As for the rest, it's mostly Baumwoll moping enigmatically, negotiating a room cluttered with a drum set, a fake-dirt-filled trough and wooden farm tables covered in electronic equipment. She certainly can't escape the band, which is everywhere, even in the catwalk. There's noise, noise, noise: Meicht plays his assaultive trumpet solos like missile strikes, and you don't need to stick around for the postshow vodka party to feel thoroughly hammered.
There's something else in your program, though: the farewell from the Incubator curators. A loving notice to the community, it's full of solid advice (“Stop being a dick”) and a palpable sense that they don't see this closure as a big tragedy. They call their decision to close shop “releasing the future of the room,” so maybe it's time to buck up and stop blubbering about it. Certainly the works that found their way here were a mixed bag, as they are everywhere, but its minders maintained a sense of casual openness, a vibe that seems to exist at fewer and fewer places. Apparently one of the house traditions was that an outgoing production would leave a six-pack for the incoming show. Let's keep that one going. Next week they'll be ripping out the risers; if you don’t make it to Katorga, at least swing by to buy all those Incubator folks a final brew.—Theater review by Helen Shaw